Review by King Atari
"This is where the series heads in a downward spiral..."
Double Dragon and Double Dragon II were the kings of the beat-'em-up genre in 1987 and 1988, but by 1990 Final Fight had come and upped the ante, as well as a load of wannabe fighters . The one-on-one fighting genre wasn't far off, either. Double Dragon 3 had potential, and could have served as an entertaining fighter, but failed in nearly every aspect. In the realm of beat-'em-ups, Double Dragon 3 is far from bottom of the barrel (my for pick that honor would be the dreadful Crime Fighters), but considering the first two games were so much fun, it's impossible to not be disappointed with this third game in the series. In fact, there wouldn't be a truly great Double Dragon game again until 2003's Double Dragon Advance for the GBA (Super Double Dragon is just okay, and that Battletoads crossover doesn't really count).
The story is even weaker than the first two games, despite there being more of it. This time around, Billy and Jimmy Lee set off an on a quest to retrieve the Rosetta Stones, with the help of an old woman named Hiruko. This is basically the only reason you have for beating up countless enemies. Nice. At least in the first two games you had motives for your actions (rescue and revenge, respectively). Billy and Jimmy are more like two schoolyard thugs wanting your lunch money than heroes.
Gameplay had the potential of being great, but just falls flat on it's face. While control is responsive enough, everything is so jerky it's difficult to really do what you want with any kind of ease. Couple this with cheap enemies (especially bosses), and you have a recipe for disaster. I could give the gameplay a free pass, though, if it wasn't for a coin sucking system that just drags everything down more than it already is. You have to deposit a coin at a shop every time you want an extra life, a weapon, even moves outside of the standard punch-kick-jump kick formula. This is just ridiculous. You'd have to spend, what, $30 to beat this game in the arcade? Why didn't they just make all moves standard from the get-go, and have you pick up weapons as you go along? Granted, if you buy extra lives, you get to play as different characters, but none of them are interesting or useful enough. You're better off just putting in a new coin and playing as Billy or Jimmy, instead, making this shop system even more useless. Gameplay on the whole is a joke.
Double Dragon's I and II both had very good graphics for the time. They weren't exactly in the style of a cartoon, but they weren't going for realism, either. The result was very pleasing to the eye. Double Dragon 3 goes more for realism, and the characters and backgrounds at least look okay. Characters aren't exactly spectacular, and can't even compete with Final Fight, which came out a year prior, but they get the job done. Enemies are basic palette swaps of each other, though there are unique baddies pertaining to each level (the game takes place in different areas of the world, though all of them are pretty linear, something the first two entries successfully avoided), but none of them have any personality. The game hits it's nadir in this category at the very end, though, when you actually face Cleopatra in Egypt. Give me a break.
Music is nowhere near as good as the first two installments. Mission 1 is passable, but after that, none of it is memorable or catchy. At all. Sound effects aren't anything to write home about, either.
Replayability? Modes? Who cares?
Double Dragon 3 is a slap in the face to everyone who enjoyed previous entries in the series. While ports to the NES have been criticized for straying far from the arcade versions, DD3 is actually better on the NES, and probably the only good version. Is the arcade awful? It comes off more as mediocre, and like I said before, there are worse fighters out there, but you should head straight for Double Dragon or Double Dragon II if you have the choice.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 03/15/06
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